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Are more coronavirus postponements coming for the Lightning?

Tampa Bay Times logo Tampa Bay Times 1/20/2021 Eduardo A. Encina, Tampa Bay Times

TAMPA — If the first week of the NHL season is any indication, it’s quickly becoming evident that teams will have to become accustomed to shuffling schedules.

That’s the situation the Lightning have already experienced and could soon again. After their two games scheduled for this week against the Dallas Stars were rescheduled for May because the Stars’ start to the season was delayed, Tampa Bay could have another significant gap between games approaching.

At least that’s the way it’s looking. The Carolina Hurricanes currently have five players on the league’s COVID(-19) protocol list. Their game in Nashville Tuesday was postponed after three players tested positive for the coronavirus, and on Wednesday morning Carolina’s games Thursday and Saturday against the Florida Panthers were postponed, according to The (Raleigh, N.C.) News & Observer.

The Lightning are slated to be the Hurricanes’ next opponent, traveling to Raleigh for games against Carolina on Tuesday, Jan. 27 and Thursday, Jan. 29 after their two-game series in Columbus on Thursday and Saturday.

So now that series is in question, and though there’s still a week until the Lightning are scheduled to play the Hurricanes, it should become clear in the next few days whether those games will be able to be played on those dates.

Lightning coach Jon Cooper said Tuesday it would be naive to think that teams will be able to completely avoid the virus, but the goal is staying as safe as possible.

“If you’re following what you’re supposed to be doing, it’s a percentages game, and you just cut the percentages down,” Cooper said. “… If you follow the rules, the percentages should work out in your favor and that’s just why you have to be diligent about it.”

Though not on the scale of the Hurricanes’ outbreak, the Lightning are working their way through their own coronavirus-related situation. Both forward Blake Coleman and backup goaltender Curtis McElhinney were on yesterday’s protocol list, bringing their availability for Thursday’s game into question.

“We don’t have the security of the bubble, let’s put it that way, so there’s a lot more onus on us as individuals,” Cooper said. “But then even that breaks down a little bit, because your players have families and kids. So there’s so many different things that go into this.”

Wednesday marked the Lightning’s fifth straight day off because of the postponed games against the Stars. Tampa Bay is scheduled to fly to Columbus Wednesday afternoon.

Contact Eduardo A. Encina at eencina@tampabay.com. Follow @EddieInTheYard.

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